Tony Pike stared into the Yarra River on his way to lunch in Melbourne yesterday and focused his mind.

Not too much, just the right amount, he told himself.

The Waikato trainer is about to create history for himself if, as everyone expects, Sacred Elixir gets over the line first in this afternoon's A$1.5 million Victoria Derby.

On the eve of his greatest moment in racing, Pike did not want to know about the enormous stakemoney he was about to race for.


Faint hope.

Pike was desperate to treat this icon classic as if it were a $7000 Woodville maiden race.

"There is always a temptation to change your normal approach when you head into a major race like this. That's when you stuff things up.

"You have to treat it as if it's just any other race. You can't allow yourself to be overawed by the occasion."

Pike must have been concentrating reasonably hard because when asked his age he couldn't remember whether he is 41 or 42.

This afternoon, with luck, he won't care.

Parents Wayne and Vicki ran Hawke's Bay pubs.

"I grew up riding trackwork and would have loved to have been a jockey, but that was never going to happen [height]. I did a lot of showjumping and the family moved to Cambridge in 1987."

One who will be on the Pike team at Flemington today will be Jim "The Pumper" Cassidy, a longtime Pike family friend. "I stayed with Jimmy when I went to Sydney for six months in the early days. I spent three months with Rogey [Graeme Rogerson] and Gai [Waterhouse]."

Pike's success in recent seasons has been remarkable, but he sees it as much more gradual than that. "What has helped is that no longer are we forced to sell our good horses.

"For quite a few years we'd sell our best horses [overseas] and try and do our best with what we had left.

"Obviously it has helped to have owners like Raffles [Sacred Elixir's owners] and new clients that don't sell their horses."

As much as you look closely at today's full field of opponents facing Sacred Elixir it is difficult to make a case for one of them to beat him. Pike doesn't disagree, although he doesn't want to get ahead of himself.

"I was asked yesterday by the Press whether I thought we'd win and I said: 'If I wasn't attached to the stable, I'd still be backing Sacred Elixir'.

"Having said that, this is a Derby, it's 2500m and there is a million and a half on the line. Derbys are not easy to win and you always need luck."

With Hong Kong-based jockey Zac Purton engaged and a favourable barrier draw (No 1) Pike has more than one luck base covered.

Sacred Elixir is at very short odds and the value for a place looks to be the other New Zealander Highlad.

Forget his last run when he was caught wide throughout, but he will need luck from yet another bad barrier.

Every successful trainer has their own mantra. Jim Gibbs is "never press the panic button". Colin Jillings used to declare "patience".

Tony Pike placed the greatest importance on soundness. "This horse looks magnificent and is completely sound.

"I would rather have a horse 90 per cent fit and 100 per cent sound than the other way around."

TAB Market: $2.80 Sacred Elixir, $8 So Si Bon, $8.50 Swear, $15 Beach Life, Inference; $16 Rocketeer, $17 Prized Icon, $18 Captain Duffy, Morvada, Tumultuous; $21 Highlad, $26 Wine Bush, $31 Hollywood Mo, Kent; $41 Silvera, $51 Anaheim, $61 All Out Of Love, $101 Peter John, Shine Tak Star, Zoffman.